Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Franchising the news?

Like many fast-food establishments, Chik-fil-A is always inviting people to help them expand by becoming an owner-operator.

Franchising is a part of the fast food business model. In a franchise, the basic Chik-fil-A concept is the same, but the person raking in the cash is a little different.

Can we ever become so "cookie-cutter" in our presentation of community journalism that we are, in effect, franchising our local news?

That's EXACTLY what one Chik-Fil-A customer thinks. He was one of ten customers at the Chik-Fil-A in Oxford, Ala. with whom we spoke informally yesterday.

It's part of our effort to open the dialogue about community news reporting and community journalism. We videotaped our short talks with the Chik-fil-A customers and will show them at the COM-J Conversation on Community Journalism next week.

Traveling all over country, this Chik-Fil-A customer who happened to be stopping in Oxford was simply saying that all the television news programs look the same no matter where you go.

His "theory" was that this was a directive from the television networks. As a former local TV news producer, I can tell you that is highly unlikely. But, he might have a point about the WAY WE PRODUCE the news.

Incidentally, he, like most of the nine other customers with whom we spoke, depended much more on television for their news and information than the local newspaper.

Only three of the 10 people had much to say about their local newspaper.

What do you think? Are we franchising local news?


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